About a year ago, somebody wrote a comment on one of my blogs requesting me to do a feature on the Mirage 2000 for the Philippine Air Force (PhAF). I didn’t get to do then it as I had already done a couple of blogs on possible aircraft candidates for consideration by the PhAF, so it was a low priority for me at that time.
However, news came out recently about how the French government was offering 2nd hand former French Air Force Mirage 2000-5Fs to the country of Columbia for only USD 28 million per aircraft, with the price already including an “initial” Logistics package.  That price was low enough for me to think, hey, maybe the PhAF should consider the Mirage 2000 (M2k) also since it’s cheap and seems like a pretty good aircraft on its own, at least at first glance.
’Mirage 2000 Comparisons’
The Mirage 2000 is a delta-winged, single-engine, multi-role Fighter aircraft that first entered service with the French Air Force (FAF) in 1982. Since then it has served with the air forces of 8 other countries with around 590 aircraft built in total. The Mirage 2000-5 (unofficially known as the “Dash 5”) is an updated version of the M2k with better radar and better avionics (i.e., Glass Cockpit, Heads Up Display, etc.), and its version which entered service with the FAF in 2000 was designated as the Mirage 2000-5F.
I will be comparing the M2k with 2 other aircraft: The FA-50 and the SU-30MKK. With the FA-50 since it is supposed to be our “Trainer” aircraft to prepare our pilots for more advanced Combat Aircraft like the M2k. This will allow us to see which areas the M2k is better or worse than the aircraft which is supposed to be only secondary to it.
And with the SU-30MKK as it one of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF) most advanced combat aircraft and will likely be one of the M2k’s main antagonist if ever we really do get into a shooting war with China. This will give us an idea of how the M2k will fare against such opposition.
’The SU-30 and the FA-50’
Just a quick look at the SU-30 and the FA-50: The SU-30 is an improved version of the SU-27 Flanker made by the Russian Federation’s “Sukhoi Company” and first entered service with the Russian Air Force in 1996. It is described as a heavy, long-range, all-weather strike fighter and around 400+ aircraft have been built so far going into service with the air forces of 9 countries around the world. The SU-30MKK is the special export version to China of the SU-30 which went into the PLAAF service in 2000. China ordered 76 aircraft which were delivered from 2000 to 2003, and in case of any war, it will be a frontline aircraft for China as it is one of its most capable combat aircraft right now. The official NATO code name for the SU-30MKK is the “Flanker-G”.
The FA-50 is a variant of the T-50 Lead-In Fighter Aircraft (LIFT) with improved Avionics, Equipment and Weapons enabling it to have better capability as a Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) as its secondary role. It is made by the South Korean company, “Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI)”, it first flew in 2011, and a total of 72 aircraft have been ordered by the air forces of South Korea and the Philippines. Its official name as per its manufacturer KAI is the ”Fighting Eagle”.
Starting with this blog, I have “spun-off” to a separate page some of the explanations and notes I used in making the computations below. This is so there will less “clutter” and I can just focus on the comparisons between aircraft in this and future blogs. If you want to read some of those notes, you can access the page at the AIRCRAFT COMPARISON NOTES AND DETAILS PAGE.
Also I just noticed that the Sino Defence website, one of the main sources I used for the SU-30MKK have for some reason now taken down their page showing the technical details for that aircraft. Good thing that some kind people decided to share a better source for the Flanker-G’s technical details.
’Within Visual Range Capability’
Below I am comparing the Within Visual Range (WVR) or “Close Range” combat capability of each aircraft based on their Avionics, Weapons and Performance.
Typical of delta-winged aircraft, the M2k has a very low Wing Loading (WL), lower than the Fighting Eagle by 29% and even lower than the Flanker by over 60%. This means that it is going to be very difficult for either aircraft to match the M2k in a horizontal turning fight.
Among the other delta-winged aircraft I have blogged about so far, the M2k’s WL at 270 kg/m^2 is slightly higher than the Tejas (259 kg/m^2) but slightly better than that of the Kfir 2000 (285 kg/m^2).
In terms of Thrust to Weight Ratio (TTWR), the M2k has the lowest value among the 3 aircraft, but the difference is only very small, between 2-4%. Overall in terms of maneuverability, I would say that the M2k is BETTER than the Fighting Eagle or the Flanker owing to its huge advantage in WL.
The M2k also has the advantage in terms of GUNS. Its 2 DEFA 554 cannons have a combined rate of fire of 60 rounds per second compared to the 50 for the FA-50’s gun or the 30 on the Flanker’s gun. Its 30 mm caliber also has a longer range than the 20 mm cannon on the FA-50, and it has a larger caliber that can deal significantly more damage per round, equivalent in power to that of the Flanker’s gun. Overall the M2k has the best gun system of the 3 aircraft.
In terms of WVR Combat Capability, overall the M2k is much better than the FA-50 and better than even the Flanker owing to its superior Maneuverability and superior Gun System while having the latest WVR Avionics innovation like the HMS and HOBMs.
’Beyond Visual Range Capability’
Below I am comparing the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) combat capability based on each aircraft’s Avionics and Weapons. Take note that compared to my previous blogs, I have shortened the range of the R-77/AA-12 Archer to the more realistic 110 km range maximum instead of the 140 km range I used to put before, thanks to finding a better source for its range.
A big disappointment for me with the M2k is that it is only currently qualified to carry the Mica missile which has a range of only around 60 km, or much less than that of the Flanker’s R-77/AA-12 Archer. This means its capability is only similar to that of Derby (50 km range) missile equipped Tejas and Kfir 2000 despite it having the more powerful RDY radar (around twice the range of the ELM-2032 on the Tejas and Kfir 2000).
The Mica’s shorter range means that the Flanker will have a theoretical “First Shot Advantage” of around 37 seconds before the M2k can start to fire back at the Flanker, which is quite a huge advantage.
The M2k could use Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) like Digital Radio Frequency Modulation (DRFM) Jammers to try to jam the Flanker’s Archer missiles, but then that means it will be the first to go into the defensive, and the DRFM jammers are still unproven equipment as of now.
’Payload and Range’
Here I am more interested in comparing the M2k to the Fighting Eagle and not the Flanker since they are on the same side, and we can see that both theoretically has about the same range, but that the M2k can carry around 31% more load than the FA-50.
The biggest chink in the armor of the M2k is its MAINTENANCE. Now there are sites out there which says otherwise, saying that the M2k does in fact reportedly have low maintenance costs, but then again the M2k’s maintenance issues with the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF, or the Taiwanese Air Force) has been documented by no less than the US-Taiwan Business Council in a publication entitled, “The Balance of Air Power in the Taiwan Strait”. The problem they cite is that the aircraft has “…high cost of spare parts and factory repair/refurbishment of critical components and subsystems …” which is estimated in terms of Cost Per Flight Hour (CPFH) per aircraft to be “…triple that of an indigenous F-CK-1A/B (IDF), and almost five times that of an F-16A/B …”
This issue has subsequently been directly and indirectly confirmed by some of the other countries which operates the M2k, like Brazil, for example, which also cited high maintenance costs as one of the reasons for it to retire its M2k with over 10k FHs.  On the other hand, Qatar tried to give Indonesia some of its M2ks FOR FREE, but Indonesia declined citing the same issue with the aircraft. 
Now if a county like Taiwan or Brazil whose economy are many times better than that of ours are already balking at the M2k’s maintenance costs, then how much more a Third World country like ours? Maintenance costs was the main problem we couldn’t keep our F-8 Crusaders and F-5A Freedom Fighters in the air.
From an operational standpoint, compared to some of the combat aircraft for the PhAF that I have evaluated so far in my blog, I think the M2k is better than the Tejas since it is already established operationally, and better than the Kfir Block 60 since it is of a newer design and has FBW. It has confirmed BVR missile capability compared to the F-16A Netz which only has “speculated” BVR capability. Compared to the FA-50, the M2k is superior in almost all aspects.
The Mirage 2000-5F’s is best at WVR Combat due to its great maneuverability, excellent gun system and up to date WVR Avionics and weapons. However, it is hampered by its BVR missiles’ lack of range (at least compared to the Flanker), and its high maintenance costs. The high maintenance costs in my book is a SHOWSTOPPER, which is a bit of a letdown for me since I had high hopes for the aircraft when I first read about its possible sale to Colombia. Ultimately I don’t think it would be wise for us to consider the M2k at this point, there are likely other aircraft out there that would be more suited for us and our limited budget …
^ France Offers $500 Million Mirage 2000-5F Mulitrole Aircraft To Columbia,
^ FA-50, the first light attack aircraft made in the Republic of Korea,
^ Sukhoi Flanker Program Dossier, by the Aviation Week Intelligence Group,
^ Army and Weapons – Deadly KAI T-50 Golden Eagle,
^ R-77, R-73 Missile Upgrades Emerge (Russian missiles),
^ OLS-35 IRST option for Su-30 family,
^ Smarter (and Simpler) Radar in Harpoon,
^ The Balance of Air Power in the Taiwan Strait,
^ Two to Tango? Argentina Looking Everywhere for New Warplanes,
^ Free Jet Fighters Find No Takers,